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tv   Q A  CSPAN  February 17, 2013 11:00pm-12:00am EST

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the electronic show with the future of cable and r.n.d. monday night on c-span 2. >> this week on a "q&a," the author and historian timothy naftali. >> when you did the 149, people who serve in the nixon administration, how did you raise the money to do that? >> they had buyer's remorse and
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a group of alumni of the nixon administration who worked on the domestic side rallied and raised a lot of money for this program. i received contributions from donald rumsfeld. i believe dick cheney. i think paul o'neill provided some funding. member people. the fault of the domestic side of the head ministration hasn't received the b.j. of the administration hasn't received the domestic side of the administration has not received that much attention. for the watergate interviews, i used the trust fund. i was very conservative about the way i used the money.
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the library received one half of the ticket money that came into the library. that money was our trust fund. i used the money for public programming because the nixon foundation shut down all funding. normally, these libraries, people don't know, but the utilities are paid by the federal government. the staff is fedele and their salaries are paid by the federal government. but public programming, there is no funding for that. congress does not appropriate any money for that. we are mandated to do non- partisan work, yet we don't have any non-partisan money. i participated in the negotiations with the nixon foundation. one of the things that the
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national archives wanted to do was to give $5 in perpetuity from every ticket. i realize that, years from now, $5 might be a quarter. so we negotiated 50%. i was able to fund our public programming, the world history program, and i contributed from that trust fund 50% of the money that went into the watergate exhibit. there was no way to have the watergate exhibit otherwise. by the 34th year, we had $5 million-we had half a million dollars in that trust fund. >> where is it located? >> it is in yorba linda, calif., about half an hour south of l.a. it is a good distance from l.a. to san diego. it is a little closer to l.a. it is in orange county. it is a changing environment,
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but it is a wealthy, somewhat conservative community. one of the challenges i had was to make the library in a national institution while still respectful of local customs and that was not easy. >> so the foundation, the chairman is still ron walker. how would you describe -- you were very controversial you were about as controversial as any director. >> this is what -- i promised -- if you look at what i said from the beginning, from 2006 when the national archives hired me to do this, i was very straightforward about what i was going to do. so there is no debate in switching. the archives came to me.
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but it was a very interesting conflict of different events because the head of the nixon foundation at that point was john taylor, rev. john taylor. and john taylor is an intellectual. he is very complicated. he is a bit torn about nixon. and he admired nixon's mind. and he wanted nixon's library to be credible. now, i don't believe that every member of the nixon foundation shared john's intellectual goal. he really wanted the cold war historian. he knew who i was because i had worked on the project with pda. i just let the materials speak for themselves. i write books, but on different subjects. john taylor wanted me, too.
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he was hired by then-president george w. bush. my first book is about the cuban missile crisis. both of them wanted me. they came to me. i did not apply for the job. from the beginning, i said, look, i am a historian. we have to have a place where history is so comfortable. i am not a member of the republican party. i am not partisan crowd i am now going to become a member of the republican party. and that is aside from the fact that i was gay. i told them come if you want this, this is what you will get. i was very straightforward. i spoke with julie nixon eisenhower and tricia nixon carps. i told them, i'm going to create space where there will be a debate about your father, but i promise to be respectful and it will be intellectual and your father was an intellectual.
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and that is what i promised. the fact that the foundation later would make a big deal out of this was politics. because they knew what they're getting from the beginning. and it becomes politics -- i will tell you what happened. the foundation paid lip service. john was a complicated figure, but most of the members paid lip service. they thought that washington would bring me in. the work -- would reign me in. they assumed, regardless of my big talking or whatever i believe, that ultimately they would reign me in. albert weinstein was very nervous about having a nixon library that would be viewed like a cover-up.
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and john taylor says he wanted me just as much as alan one stop. -- alan weinstock. they both came to me in 2006 and said, would you do this? >> where were you then? >> i was in the university of virginia. i was doing some teaching. i had worked on the nixon tapes a little bit appeared mostly on the kennedy and johnson takes. i knew what nixon sat on the tapes. i recognize the problem with the federal government. how does the federal government paper over some one who makes racist and anti-semitic comments on tape that can be played over and over again? the answers you don't paper it over. that means that the library cannot be a legacy factor. >> we can at least read the transcripts.
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>> this is the achievement of part of the nixon project. before there was a library, there was a group of very dedicated archivist's working for the national archives. there was a legal professor who pushed hard for this period of the first opening was at the end of the 1990's. so there's a lot of very bad material that was available. >> have all of that been transcribed? >> no, that takes forever. very little is transcribed. even that is only about 15% of the abuse of power takes. long story short, here's the problem for the federal government. we have a habit in this country coming if i may say this now, of glossing over presidents. we have decided that they all
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have to be treated as if they are symbols of the country. what that means is that you have a smoothing over of the rough edges. and there is a feeling among modern presidents the they have a right to a certain veneration and it will be located in that presidential library. and even if they're gone, their children in some cases and former allies, other lieutenants who live longer than presidents because they're younger, they continue this. in fact, in many ways, they are even more ferocious to preserve this legacy, because the old man is gone and want to show their loyalty. this is difficult when you have a flawed president. >> you had some controversy over watergate. >> yes. >> have you been to the clinton library? >> i was going to ask you how they dealt with all the problems he had with impeachment and if
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they had been fair. >> i was told that he was really impressed with the watergate exhibit. i was told that would inspire him to do some -- to make some changes to the museum. one of the things that allen weinstein was hoping was that the nixon library to be a new start. some of the libraries are much too much like shrines. this is public money. you don't get to take off on your tax return with your money goes to a public entity or a public library. it goes to every library. >> george w. bush's library opened in the early part of 2013. how much of the building was paid for by the federal government? >> the building is pay full -- is before by his private
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foundation. the deal is that they build the building and they have to meet national archives specifications, federal government specification. >> only certain amount of feet? >> i would like to be a debate. i think americans up to decide what they want occurred but i don't think they know they have a choice. right now, congress is reducing the amount of money that is going to these libraries. the result is that the libraries will be more and more like shrines did you ask the private ally of a president to cough up a lot of money, what do they want in return? of course, they expect a certain slant. not only will you build a building, but they will create an endowment to pay for them build in -- the building in perpetuity. so these buildings are more and more pay for with private funds.
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the federal government gets the keys, the handover the day they open the building. the the government is there, but the federal government is the pauper. it is an amazing thing. you have directors took no money. the money they have is to pay for salaries and it is delightful. >> but the nixon library started the family. >> the nixon library is the only one started this way. it started as a private facility. that was because of watergate. gerald ford signed a law in 1974 called the presidential recording of materials preservation act. i was the only director whose work was governed by a single law. there are differing laws that govern the libraries that print only the nixon materials. by law, richard nixon's materials could not leave 20 miles outside of the district of columbia because it was felt
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that richard nixon was not a trustworthy conservator of his material. so they couldn't have a library. by law, he couldn't have a live library and that is because richard nixon had cut a deal and congress found out about it. he cut a deal with one of his appointees who was the head of the gao. i'm sorry, the gsa. it is the government services administration appeared at those in those days, they ran the national archives. the deal was that richard nixon would have the tapes in five years and could destroy whatever he wanted. he could destroy and he could have his papers and destroy them appeared richard nixon cut this deal before he left the white house. congress found out about it, went crazy and seized his materials.
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that meant that the nixon materials were like a crime scene. i am telling you, running the nixon library is one of the most phenomenal experiences one could have. because what happened was nixon overplayed his hand and the government responded in a very tough way. so everything was scooped up, absolutely everything, including separate -- super 8s. those were films back then. it was on government time. people used to take their super eight cameras, and videotaped their birthday parties, their kids' birthday parties. and then they would use the white house labs to develop them. so they had these birthday party reels in their offices and they were all seized. everything was seized, unless somebody destroyed something. the federal government, if they were not that heavy handed, they would give them back.
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my point simply is that nixon's materials were handled differently. now his family and his friends felt he deserved a place of reflection and ultimately a place where he and pat nixon were buried. so they opened a library with no papers. i described it to folks at the roger nixon library. >> were his vice-presidential papers there? >> there were not because he deeded them to the federal government. all he had were his pre- presidential papers, not including the vice presidential papers, and his post- presidential papers i was not around at that time, but the family decided this isn't right. our father wanted a library like every other president. and they lobby congress in the first bush term to change that law so that the materials could be sent to california. but the tradition was that they would have to be sent to a national archive facility i was
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the director. i oversaw the move. >> and now john taylor, an episcopal priest, was running the nixon library before the federal government took over. >> yes. and he desperately wanted an expert to have impaired my sense is that not everybody in the foundation wanted it to happen to have it. my sense is that not everyone in the foundation wanted it to happen. we didn't do it in person. we did it by letter. but bruce herschensohn who ran for senate in california was a nixon speechwriter. i think he was also a speechwriter for ronald reagan. he was also in the u.s. ia, the united states information agency, and he wrote the screenplay for the memorial film about jfk, the man who fought a lot about american history. he disagreed with my approach
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from the get go. well before the controversies of bringing in john d.. he said every president has a right to a watering hole. there are all those who admires him who can go and speak and not have to worry about the judgment of history. i believe that's true if it is a private facility. but the minute you make it public, i think it can't be published--- cannot be governed by those rules. again, i don't think the public recognizes that it has a choice. if you go to the different presidential libraries, you'll find this among them are shrines and others are places of serious discussion. the harry truman, for example, is a place of serious discussion. the johnson library is redoing its museum.
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i haven't seen it yet, but i suspect it will be a place for serious discussion. and there are others that are not. i think the public needs to figure out what they want. >> your office is in what relationship to the foundation? >> i am a cold war historian. i had this discussion. when john taylor was encouraging me to take the job, i said, john, one of the conditions i have was that i would like to run all public programming in the building because i don't want to run berlin. i had steadied divided berlin. i don't want to do that. it would be terrible. but in the end, that is what we got, berlin. my office is one area. the foundation is looking very far from us.
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relations get very tense and cool. as i said, the shutdown of funding for the library. >> are they required to fund anything? >> i am not a lawyer, but let me put it this way. in the transfer agreement, one of their objectives is supposed to be assisting the library, but there's no set amount that they're supposed to provide a will tell you, when i started, they promised a two hundred $50,000 a year for public programming. that never happened. it a very tense. >> one is -- when was it the most tense and why? >> it didn't take that long. a lot of the fights were actually over little things. they were supposed to setup assistance. when you are a federal museum, you're supposed to maintain certain levels of humidity and
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temperature control. with the had purchased for the museum was not good enough. they knew they were supposed to fix that. they wouldn't. they were using the deadline and they were trying to use that against us so that we would pay for it. and i did not want the american people to pay for something that they were supposed to pay for. so that was tense. i remember an argument because they turned to me and said, you are supposed to be on our side. why are you on washington's side? because the taxpayer should not be paying for this. so we had fights over logistical issues. but the intellectual fight started when i invited elizabeth drew in 2007. she is a longtime journalist, observer of the nixon scene, wrote a small biography of richard nixon, a study of his presidency for the american presence series. >> she would not have been a
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supporter of his. >> but she is a serious person. i made it clear -- look, i have already overseen events with al haig, a number of events. the nixon foundation let me come even though i was not yet fully director, i moderated a lot of events. i worked with them on who we would invite good all i said is i want balance. just give me balance. i would be happy to have people who revere richard nixon, but also have people raise questions. otherwise, this is not a national facility. it is an extension of the white house. i invited elizabeth drew. at that point, they said, that's it. and they shut down funding. we had already set up a whole bunch of events for six months. we plan six months ahead. they stopped funding that. in terms of the role history project, there were a number
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people on the list and said, okay, we promised we would fund the interview with senator dole. afterwards, no more. so the funding for the world history is stopped. it stopped when i invited elizabeth drew. they assumed that washington would still -- that washington would stop me. they felt that they could put pressure on washington. what they did not understand is that, by saving money so i can run this on my own if they tried to interfere. >> but before they became part the federal government, they could decide all of those things. >> of course. we give them six months -- elizabeth drew with june 2007. i was at the facility starting in october 2006. i was meeting with them all the time.
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i said over and over again, we have to have balance here. please -- not pleased because it was my decision but i was preparing them for that. >> -- why would you want to put yourself through this? >> i had just become a u.s. citizen. i cared deeply about history. my dad died pretty young. when i became a u.s. citizen, alan escorted my mom to the funeral. >> are you from quebec? and i knew a lot about the
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fights over the knicks and materials. -- over the nixon materials. there was supposed to be a watergate conference where the nixon foundation was supposed to be receiving things. maybe it is just too much self- confidence, but since both sides wanted me, i thought i had a unique opportunity and i care deeply about this. >> the oral [indiscernible] >> part of my job was overseeing the release of the white house tapes. so i thought i had a remarkable opportunity to do some good as an american citizen. so it was a great challenge. >> let me say what they would say -- my guess -- i can put -- i cannot put words in their mouths. i have talked with some of them before. the would say we didn't want that nixon-hating liberals
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canadian gays in here that they hired to run the show. this is the problem. they were convinced that washington would either restrain or fire me. and washington would do it. >> meeting allen weinstein. >> and his replacement, the acting director. we were supposed to do -- can you believe this? i managed to recapture -- even after elizabeth drew, a year later, we tried to do some -- we try to find some public programs, some exhibits -- we have a temporary exhibits gallery. you don't just have a permanent
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gallery. i thought what can i do with them? i believe that you find mutual interest. so i can look with some ideas. for example, let's do something on the moon landing. president nixon was president for all of the apollo moon landings. isn't that a non-partisan wonderful thing to do? 1969, 2009 -- let's do that together. i wanted to do -- and the council funding because they were so angry about john been. >> explain that. -- john dean. >> i invited john dean to speak of the library about his books. i told the nixon foundation in advance. i said, i'm going to have john
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been here -- john dean here. i think it would be a good thing for us to work on this together. but they split on it. the acting executive director for the foundation, kathy o'connor, who worked recklessly with me and i got along very well with her in 2009, she said, i am understand why you're doing this. john taylor had already left on his blog and publicly supported when i was doing. he recognized that i meant what i said and i said what i meant that my agenda was what i said it was. and he supported me. but the foundation at that point was shifting and christening and they were very unhappy. lemme -- let me read this to you.
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>> ron walker called john dean a rat. what do you say to that? do you have the sense that there were just throwing this in their face further calling john dean? >> i had said from the beginning that this would not be a credible institution -- which was one of their objectives -- until john dean and other
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serious critics of the president in that era came. i made it clear. they could have so easily turned this into a success for themselves. what if they had done nothing rather than go public about it? they sent a letter to every former president -- i mean, i think it may surprise some of the viewers. i have never met president clinton. well, i shook his hand, but i did not meet him really. president clinton said who is this tim naftali. they sent a letter to all of the former presidents complain about my decision to invite john dean, saying that i had somehow violated the basic spirit of the provincial library by doing this. they are the ones who made it to grow case out of it and i think
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it was a big mistake on their -- made a federal case out of it, and i think it was a big mistake on their part. what would it have hurt them to make this non-partisan ground? he was our guest, not theirs. have him come in. let it happen. not make something out of it. and then just test whether i was a man of my word. how was i going to use -- they were always concerned about how will this be used to hurt richard nixon. but they didn't. they made a big fuss about it. they made more out of it than they had to. >> did you fill the auditorium? >> yes. we had an overflow. and they learn from that. because when i invited george mcgovern -- by the way, we had celebrated visitor.
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when george mcgovern came, they recognize the mistake they had made. then we had a joint event. the nixon foundation and the national archives, the nixon library, we had 506 hundred people. the nixon foundation let us use the facility for that. >> i don't want to put words in your mouth, but isn't this a dysfunctional system where you have these libraries and these museums and then you have the foundation and the federal government? the foundation has to raise money for people loved the president. >> you are not putting words in my mouth. it is a dysfunctional system. and that is why i want the public to know what they're getting. there are a lot of great people working in the system. i admire most of my colleagues, fellow directors.
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most of them are trying to do what i am trying to do. but most of them did not have the unique circumstances that gave me the independence that i have. i told my mother. i told my friends. i told the people i had in the beginning that i would not stay very long. i had a kennedy book to finish. i have a career as a writer to continue. i have other things i want to do with my life. i want to do some public service. i expected to be in and out of there in three years. i promised that i would move the materials. i promised that i would hire the staff. i promised that i would have the first legitimate academic conference there. it took five years to do it when i finish what was on my list, i left. i think that my job was to be a catalyst.
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i believe, from this experience that, if you want to change things in government, you have to be prepared to stay for short periods. you cannot stay for long because then you begin to compromise. but if you want to be a catalyst, go win, do the job and leave. i looked at with james polk did. he decided one term would do what he wanted to do. i am not saying i and james polk, but i had this mindset and i did what i needed to do and i would leave. that give me a lot of support. i knew in my soul i was not staying long. i just felt i had an obligation to finish what i started. the oral history program is a not unexpected joy. -- is an unexpected joy.
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i had that in mind when i started. >> i want to go back to the oral history program in a moment. but i heard somewhere that the replica of the eastern in the white house is built on the campus of the nixon library -- the east room in the white house is built on the campus of the nixon library and run by the foundation. they built it. >> this is true of all the modern libraries. there is a map. i believe it is public information or it should be anyway. there is the foundation space and the national archives space. it is so complicated because -- i can give you an illustration. the reagan library has political
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speeches in the area around your force one. the audience may have seen presidential campaigns and you might ask yourself how can you have a republican debate in a federal building? you cannot. the air force one pavilion is run by the reagan foundation. it is not federal space. and the clinton library, i believe that the clinton foundation controls part of it. there are some libraries that are totally federal. they are owned completely by the federal government. but the new ones, and the nixon library because it joined the system as one of the new ones, there is a tree between the foundation and the federal government. there is a demarcation mark. in the nixon more--- in the
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nixon library, you can see the mark. the foundation did not like the mats that i selected. they did not like the logo i had selected. so when you go into the library, you have the national archives logo. and they have mats in front of the doors for the foundation and different colored ones for the national archives. that's why i say that i was running west berlin. it is working this way because congress and i guess the executive branch decided that there is only so much the federal government should spend money on. look, i am not a big government person. i am progressive, but mainly on social issues. let me tell you what i want people to think about. do you want your children,
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because i care most about the high schools and the elementary school kids to come through these libraries -- how much do you want them to learn history as opposed to cant, to spin that white house as produce. if you don't congress appropriates funds for public programming in these libraries, then they will tend to be shrines. there will be people who will fight that. i did and some of my colleagues do. we fight and we don't have a lot of tools and our disposal and we do not have money to do it, but why make it so hard? >> how much federal money would go into the nixon library every year? >> the budget was roughly -- the library has some staff here to this day in washington. the tapes are done here.
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at college park. so there are two different budgets. that is to run the building and salary and equipment. there is not a cent for public programming. so if i were to go to an organization and ask money from them and then say but leave intellectual content to me, i recognize that this is a problem. in the end, it proved impossible because they wanted to place such limits on freedom of speech in our programs that i couldn't except it. >> robert curls books were not welcome in the johnson library for years -- robert carroll's books were not welcome in the johnson library for years. >> and then they turned around. i can tell you the that was a great achievement for the system.
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i participated in the jfk library on a discussion of the bay of pigs. they didn't do that until a few years ago. the oral history, 149 interviews, when you think back on those interviews, 300 hours, what are the highlights for you? where did you sit there and go, i did not know this? >> the delight achievement and everywhere he talks about president -- the dwight shafeman interview. robert bork's recollection of tension in the white house and in the justice department. he is a good storyteller. listen to lyn harmen. he was a partner in nixon's law
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firm. he is still with us. i interviewed him twice for the library. he knew nixon through the wilderness period. he knew john mitchell. john mitchell would become attorney general of the united states, would lead the -- would leave that post to run nixon's campaign and would end up in jail. to listen to him talk about richard nixon, the late-night calls -- nixon was an insomniac, i guess -- so he would call people like garmin just to talk, just to wind down. nixon would fall asleep and he would drop the phone. so the person on the other end of the phone would hear it thud against the ground.
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but to hear that on tapes -- his description of nixon talking to coretta scott king after the assassination of martin luther king. he decided he should speak with king's widow, but he does not call her when her husband was in jail in birmingham. to listen to fred malek talk about why he made the order to make a list of jews. >> who didn't give you good answers? that's not fair. who didn't give you what you thought was not honest answers? >> first of all, i want to make it clear, even though i am free to say whatever i want and i am free to say what ever want, it
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is very hard for me to know for sure who is telling the truth or not. so it is a feeling. i have done enough of these interviews. my feeling is that chuck colson was not being straightforward with me. the evidence was overwhelming evidence that linked him to certain things that even the washington -- that even the watergate special prosecutors could not make sense of. >> what was his job? >> he was special counsel to the president. he was basically the president's boyd for political activities and special things -- president boy for political activities and special things. >> he wanted me to fire all the
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people in the labor statistics. i called george. i said, he wants to fire the head of the bureau of labor statistics. he says they're all against him. he says, don't do anything until i come back. he flew back and dealt directly with the president. there were many times that i didn't do what he said. there were on awful lot of things that he would ask you that you knew that you couldn't do and shouldn't do. >> the interview with george shultz was very powerful. it is only an hour. he only had time for an interview of an hour. he is still reasonably fit. in a few days, he will be 92.
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that was a moving interview. the interview with robert stockists, the student at the time who met nixon. talking with the special prosecutors, jill [indiscernible] her story is remarkable. i was just about to leave, the summer 2011, and by closest friends knew that i was about to announce -- the watergate exhibit opened in 2011. it was time for me to go. so i was wrapping things up in my mind. and some veterans of the watergate at the house judiciary committee called me and said we would like to interview us.
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john door had given permission, when he was still alive, but would not be interviewed for the project. he does not do interviews, apparently. he had already started to show these on c-span. they saw them. they wanted this done and they felt that their story should be preserved, too. i had the fbi, the head of the fbi investigation. i did 18 of those interviews before i left. in the last few weeks working for the federal government. i realized this was a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity. and there was a cumulative effect. i was a much better interviewer at the end of this process than in the beginning because i could make connections in my own mind because i had sat through so
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many of these. for people interested in how this country dealt with impeachment for the first time in the modern era, these interviews are rather interesting. of course, these people would later be involved in the clinton impeachment issue, although on the different side, and they talk about that. so you have an opportunity in listening to people like evan davis and bernie nussbaum. you can hear them talk about two impeachment's in different stages of their lives. i felt so grateful that they had called and that i was around to do that. i did shivers because you can sit there and be transported not simply to 1974, but to 1998 and 1999. and you learn something about our country because people who
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do public service do it for a long time and they cover many administrations. and they carry both institutional memory and baggage from one era to another. as these folks talk about impeachment, you can see both institutional memory and baggage played out before your eyes. i felt privileged to be an eye witness to those. >> here is another robert bork tape. what is the smoking gun? >> this is important. ok, president nixon i believe understood that the tapes would be his undoing -- i would say unraveling, but that is a bad pun. so he fought tooth and nail to prevent the tapes from being released. this goes to the supreme court. the case is u.s. v nixon.
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it is decided in august of 1974. he must turn over the tapes. the executive powers and privilege to not cover a criminal trial. as a result, the president gives the special prosecutor a set of tapes that leon dorsey who had been the special prosecutor. before giving them, president nixon ordered transcripts be made before they are turned over and he knows which ones are problematic. so he gets that transcript and he shows them to people. there is an interview that we did with trent lott, then member of congress from mississippi, famous senator, majority leader, i think.
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he gets a bootleg copy, if you will. but the tape is not released, only the transcript. in the transcript, you can read the president ordering the cia to disrupt an fbi investigation and to lie to the fbi, that the fbi should not look into the sources of funding that was later used by the watergate burglars for national security reasons. don't look into it because it would open a cia operation. it is not true, but the president wanted to use the cia to protect a political shenanigan, a political crime, and use the national security exemption as a cover-up. >> your interview was done in 2008. robert bork was still alive. here he is talking about the smoking gun tape. >> what was your reaction when you heard of the smoking gun tape?
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>> dismay, but not surprised. >> could you develop that a little? >> i was sorry to see the last nail hammered into the coffin. but i was not so terribly surprised there was a smoking gun. george called me and said, look, we're going into court in about five minutes. i want to tell you that there is an 18 and 1/2 minute gap in the tape. that surprised me and dismayed me. you cannot show up with an 18 1/2 minute gap.
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that would suspect something. >> how would that affect being on the supreme court? >> i don't remember. i am quite sure -- i haven't looked at that whole interview i guess it has been four years since i did it. we talked about the consequences of it. i suspect it is there, but i don't swear to it because i'm not sure. what i did in these interviews there is sort of a standard approach. i started well before the nixon period because i wanted to situate them in time and space. a number of them were world war ii veterans. i felt that it would be wonderful to have some vets recollections.
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i brought them through the nixon period and always would afterwards. i wouldn't be surprised if we talked about afterwards. i know he felt that he was -- he suffered for what he did. the treatment of him later on was the product of the decisions he made in 1970. >> when your time at the library was up and when your time and doing all of these interviews were up, how did you change your mind? >> welle -- >> about richard nixon. >> my mind changed in a strong wave. -- in a strong way. i didn't like richard nixon when i started. but i don't think you have to like the president to respect them. i am among those who feel -- i
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am not among those who feel that the president has to be a nice person. i am interested in a president who leads and whose administration does good things for the country, including defending american liberties. but i didn't like compared i couldn't possibly like him because i had heard him on the tapes at the miller center. and by the way, the people who were hiring me knew my background. anybody who's job it was to familiarize themselves with presidential tapes would know very well richard nixon's comments. because a lot of those things that come out. over the time i was there, we've been least another 630 hours of the tapes because there were still takes to be released and there are still more to be released. i'm sorry, i couldn't like a man who said things like that about other people. and it's not just once. it is repeated and it is clear that it was a mindset.
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but that is irrelevant, whether you like somebody. it is whether you respect them. i have to tell you that my respect for our richard nixon plummeted -- for richard nixon plummeted as i got to know more about him, as i oversaw the archives, and come in the 1990's, the national archives, under a lot of pressure from the nixon foundation, withheld some materials which i had a need to know about because i was working on the watergate exhibit. i went into the vaults. these are not classified materials. there were closed for other reasons. i went through the materials. i said why these closed? we put them on the web site, the key ones, about watergate. they shouldn't have been withheld. and it was not the fault of the archives working the nixon project. they were under enormous political pressure. it is a very sad story.
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there are some very be heroes in the late 1980's and 1990's. anyway, that material, coupled with what i learned from the oral histories and the tapes that we released left me for the dismayed. a lot of what the good that the nixon administration did on domestic policy is the achievement of a lot of good government republicans who worked for him. there are some real heroes that i did not know about who my greatly admire and even went on to work in the george herbert walker bush administration. those are the people who deserve credit. on the tape, richard nixon often wants to dismantle these things. he is embarrassed that he is involved. if he had had a second term, some of the things that he is now credited with, some of the environmental policies, he would dismantle them. in terms of his approach to government, i believe that you should never use government to hurt people.
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and he sought to use government to actually hurt people. the fact that he did not do more of it is because a real heroes within the administration stopped him. and these are self-serving people who said this on tape for their own legacy. but this is what the documents and the white house tapes show. i must say that my opinion of richard nixon dropped dramatically. i think the country was very fortunate that things didn't turn out worse because they could have turned out much worse. >> are there people who think richard nixon got a raw deal? >> allot. -- a lot. most of the volunteers feel that way. i wasn't planning to change their minds. i wanted to open their minds to
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the possibility that the critics of richard nixon might not just be partisan attacks. and i hope -- partisan hacks. and i hope that the oral history explains that there is a line you have to draw and the president shouldn't cross it. and on occasion, richard nixon crossed it. i know i am naive, but you cannot be a teacher if you're not an idealist in some way. it didn't work. and there are people in and around the library who believe that he got a raw deal. i remember summit coming up to me when we had one of our tapes openings who was a volunteer at the library say to me, we understand that you can create the states and washington and the you are actually able to manipulate them to make richard nixon sound worse. is that true? they thought i could somehow create richard nixon's anti- semitic comments.
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they did not want to believe that that was the historical record. oh, no, it is remarkable. i would say i learned so much about the -- about how hard it is to persuade people to have an open mind. and how partisan some people can be. nixon's story is a great story. if you're looking for a great republican story, this is a great story. it is not richard nixon. it is schultz and paul o'neill. you don't have to be partisan about this. but if your goal is to defend richard nixon, then misinformation is troubling. and i found people whose solitary objective was to solitary objective was to disprove any critic of richard


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